Football Preview: versus Rice

The Owls will face Rice at home for their first post-bye week game.

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Football Preview: versus Rice

Wide receiver Henry Bussey (1) watches as an overthrown pass sails high above his head during the Owls Sept. 19 win versus Buffalo. Bussey ran for a total of 34 yards with an average of 11.3 yards per carry on the day. Alexis Hayward | Web Editor

Wide receiver Henry Bussey (1) watches as an overthrown pass sails high above his head during the Owls Sept. 19 win versus Buffalo. Bussey ran for a total of 34 yards with an average of 11.3 yards per carry on the day. Alexis Hayward | Web Editor

Wide receiver Henry Bussey (1) watches as an overthrown pass sails high above his head during the Owls Sept. 19 win versus Buffalo. Bussey ran for a total of 34 yards with an average of 11.3 yards per carry on the day. Alexis Hayward | Web Editor

Wide receiver Henry Bussey (1) watches as an overthrown pass sails high above his head during the Owls Sept. 19 win versus Buffalo. Bussey ran for a total of 34 yards with an average of 11.3 yards per carry on the day. Alexis Hayward | Web Editor

Ryan Lynch, Sports Editor

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Head football coach Charlie Partridge came into Monday’s press conference after the Owls’s bye week with welcome news for the fans of the program.

“He will be ready,”  Partridge said, referring to starting quarterback Jaquez Johnson. The redshirt senior played for the first time in a week in Florida Atlantic’s 17-7 win over Charlotte on Sept. 26.

With an extra week off, Johnson has had a chance to heal from his ankle injury, which limited his mobility during his last start.

The Owls will need their starter when Rice comes to town this Saturday. They bring a 2-3 record and a need to prove themselves to the rest of Conference USA West division.

Here’s what you need to know for gameday:

Keys to the game

In their last game, the Owls gained 184 yards, their smallest offensive output all season. Much of that was due to the 49ers pass rushers sacking Johnson three times, as well as four fumbles by the QB on snaps during the rain-soaked game.

With Johnson closer to full strength, the offense should run smoother. Much like FAU, Rice has a quarterback with big-play potential and the ability to avoid defenders. Driphus Jackson has thrown 837 yards of passing and six touchdowns, but has hurt his team at times by throwing four interceptions.

Jackson was benched in the Owls’s last game versus Western Kentucky, throwing 5-of-10 on completions for 87 yards and an interception before being replaced by Tyler Stehling. Facing a secondary that has totaled nine interceptions, he will need to be especially careful or risk facing the same fate as his last game.

Rice’s run game has been one of the best in the nation,with the 31st ranked rush averaging nearly 200 yards rushing per game. Running backs Samuel Stewart and Darik Dillard each have three touchdowns, but have struggled with fumbles.

With the strength of their opponent’s run game, the home Owls will need to wrap up on tackles or risk giving up long runs.

Senior defensive tackle Trevon Coley has five sacks this year and will create problems against a Rice line that has allowed 18 sacks already this season.

If the Owls continue to lower the yards they give up, their defense will look night and day from the unit that surrendered over 600 yards during the season opener at Tulsa.

FAU’s special teams unit has been an unsung hero in the past few weeks. Redshirt junior punter Dalton Schomp has averaged 48 yards per punt, including eight which have gone for 50 or more yards. Junior kicker Greg Joseph has hit 6-of-9 field goals attempted and has not missed from inside 35 yards.

Who will win?

FAU wins if they can find the offense they had in the first week of the season, where they scored 44 points against Tulsa. Rice has given up 49, 70 and 42 points respectively in their three losses, and FAU can potentially take advantage of what has been a struggling defense of late.

Rice wins if they can force FAU to make the same mistakes that hurt their progress earlier in the season. The Owls already have 15 giveaways in four games, and have given away 280 yards on penalties. More of the same problems will sink FAU’s chances of recovery and push Rice to a 3-3 record.

Ryan Lynch is the sports editor of the University Press. For tips regarding this or other articles, he can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter.